Four Ways to Conserve Leadership Fuel

Our society is tremendously dependent on oil and the fuel it generates. I have traveled the world, and in almost every place I have been, people move around in vehicles which run on gas, diesel, or ethanol. Our dependence on fuel is so great that one of the common apocalyptic themes in movies and television shows is a future where fuel is scarce or extinct — It causes chaos! The world as we know it depends on fuel. We cannot run on empty.

Leadership Requires Fuel

Have you ever run out of fuel in your car? Depending on your distance from a filling station, running out of gas can mean a short walk or a long wait for rescue by a friend or towing service. Our lives also need fuel — physical, emotional, even spiritual fuel. As leaders, if we are constantly running in the direction of our vision, we may require more fuel than the average person, and therefore, more at risk for running on empty.

Four Ways We Empty Our Tanks Too Soon

There are several reasons why leaders operate on an empty leadership fuel tank. Here are a few of them, with possible solutions.

1. Going Too Fast

We can be so focused on our vision that we speed ahead of everyone else. We know where we are supposed to go, right? So, why not get there faster? Here are two reasons we need to slow down:

  1. Conserve Fuel: Driving in slow gear wastes fuel, but too much speed requires even more fuel. The sweet economic spot is around 55 mph or 90 km/h.
  • Leaders need to find the balance between going fast enough to acheive vision and conserving emotional and physical fuel.
  1. Allow Others to Keep Up: Have you ever traveled in caravans? The cars in the front of the line must keep an eye on the cars in the back, making sure they keep up.
  • Visionary leaders are like high-powered vehicles; they can go fast. However, followers do not always have the horse power to maintain the same speed. What is the point of getting to the destination if no one is there to share it with?

2. Heavy Load

Heavy trucks use up a lot of fuel, even when driving slow. If we act as one-man-bands, carrying the entire load of the vision on our own shoulders, our tank may be empty sooner than later. The solution is simple:

  • Delegate: I learned from a friend that delegating can create space for leaders to focus on higher priority items which move them closer to accomplishing their God-given vision. Delegation eases the load and conserves leadership fuel.

3. Obstacles and Detours

Getting through obstacles and taking detours are realities of leadership that can push the vision further away and require extra fuel.

  • Create Margin: Plan your “leadership journey” with plenty of surplus fuel to reach the end. You will want to plan extra fuel for the eventual obstacles and detours.

4. Mud Pits

If visionary leadership is charting new territory, I can almost guarantee some rocky roads ahead. Driving in the mud is an art — push too far and you will dig yourself a hole impossible to get out of.

  • Use your energy for torque, not speed: In leadership, this means slowing down and taking it easy with the gas pedal. Do not take yourself too seriously while taking the job seriously.

Leadership is often a steep, uphill climb. Obviously, hills requires much more energy and fuel, so:

The answer here is a combination of creating margin and conserving your fuel.

Action Question

How much leadership fuel do you have? Are you in danger of running on empty? What can you do to turn the situation around and conserve fuel for the journey?

by Norival Trindade